What is a "Driver's Voice" meeting?

There was a passionate dialog this past weekend on #CIOChat about whether IT needs steering meetings. If you review the thread on this chat, you'll notice that a number of us oppose the idea of a steering meeting.

Some of us have felt the pains of trying to get these meetings to work as intended - and most of us believe the name of the meetings, it's agenda. and it's attendees need to change when organizations target digital and business transformation.

Here is one of my responses:


Jonathan Feldman also chimed in with a multi-tweet thesis that starts with the following bold statement


Why IT Steering is Out


Here are a few reasons why holding traditional IT steering meetings is being frowned upon by progressive, innovative, digital, transformational, and accomplished CIOs:

  • Validating projects/initiatives have to be business and IT initiatives, not just IT
  • Businesses can not afford IT to have backseat roles; being "steered" implies "IT as a butler" and being a service to the business - not the strategic enabler that innovative digital technology organizations aspire to becoming and delivering.
  • Many organizations associate "IT Steering" with infrequent (yearly?) meetings that are misaligned to the agile, feedback-driven practices digital IT organizations are driving.

Still, investment, innovation, technical debt, security, operational improvements, customer experience investments, analytics/data programs, and emerging technology experimentation needs a forum for discussing business drivers, feasibility and priority.


So my solution to this is a meeting I call, "Driver's Voice".

What is Driver's Voice


In my book, Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology, I devote a full chapter to the modern, agile driven portfolio management office (PMO). Organizations love and hate PMOs - love them because they bring communication, reporting, and order to the hundreds of initiatives running in a modern enterprise - hate them because they are associated with bureaucracy.

In the book, I provide some guidance on how to fix this and leverage PMOs to drive innovation while ensuring compliance and technical debt is still addressed. I describe a meeting - and I forget what I call it in the book - that I now rebrand as the Driver's Voice meeting. You can read about it in detail in the book, but here's what goes on in a Driver's Voice meeting.

  • It's an open meeting for leaders, but "Drivers" run the meeting and are given voting rights.
  • All running initiatives provide very short, written weekly updates that feed into this meeting. Drivers can ask to have one or more initiatives reviewed at the meeting. Typically, ones that are expressing risk, are near execution milestones, or require a strategic pivot are good candidates.
  • New initiatives and initiatives ready for a stage-gate transition are reviewed. Voting is done by the Drivers on these initiatives openly and their votes are aggregated to a score. 
  • The score is a non-binding input to the CIO (possibly with the CFO and others on the executive committee) on how to prioritize investment dollars and resources.
  • Meeting frequency is dependent on culture. I've done it as frequent as weekly, but more often this is a monthly meeting.
The key part of this meeting is the non-binding votes by the Drivers. This gives input to the priorities, but ultimately the CIO is accountable for balancing and delivering a portfolio of initiatives.


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